COMFORTING THE AFFLICTED
Lord, may Your concern for justice and transformation be our priority.
Read Luke 6:17–26
Blessings and Woes
17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectThe Gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. What are the words of comfort and challenge in today’s reading?
Large crowds had gathered “to hear him and to be healed” (18). But Jesus would not preach a “health and wealth Gospel” to appease or attract them. Instead, he risked his rising popularity with a hard-hitting sermon. The sermon sounds absurd! How are the poor, hungry, sorrowful or persecuted “blessed”? A “woe” is not a curse, but an expression of deep regret. What is there to regret about being wealthy, well-fed, happy or honored?
There are no built-in benefits to poverty or persecution, just as prosperity is neither always nor automatically evil. Jesus’ opening words don’t address a universal audience, but only his disciples (20a) who are suffering now because of their discipleship (1 Cor. 4:11–13). Jesus comforts his afflicted disciples with the glorious promise that they will gain the kingdom of God (20,23).
The word “but” (24a) signifies that Jesus has turned his attention to a different group—in all probability, the Pharisees and scribes, who were ever-present among the crowds, ever-ready to oppose and accuse. Jesus “afflicts” this comfortable, complacent group with his warnings (24–26), which are later echoed in Revelation 3:17.
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot, missionary killed by a tribe then known as Aucas). What are you giving up now and what do you hope to gain?
Lord, may I seek Your Kingdom and Your will above all else.
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